Founded in St James’s in 1805, Truefitt & Hill is recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest barbershop. If you need a spruce-up during your trip, then this master barbers offers a quintessentially English grooming experience.
I hardly had time to settle in one of the deep-leather barber’s chairs, before master barber Michael regaled me with tales from the company’s illustrious past.
‘The company holds a Royal Warrant and has served the monarchs of Great Britain during nine consecutive reigns,’ says Michael. ‘Our old appointment books read like a who’s who of distinguished society; our clientele has included Sir Winston Churchill, the Duke of Wellington, Charles Dickens, Alfred Hitchcock, Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra.’
I was obviously in good company. Truefitt’s story is also intertwined with the greatest tragedy of maritime history: the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. ‘Truefitt lost a number of its patrons to this disaster,’ Michael says. ‘Various bottles and pomade containers from HP Truefitt’s shop were retrieved as relics from the Titanic’s wreck and are in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich.’
Listening to these stories in the comfort of the wood-panelled room, surrounded by portraits of patrons past, it would be tempting to see Truefitt & Hill as a place where time has stood still. Much of its clientele comes from nearby members’ clubs: White’s, Brooks’s and Boodle’s.
However, good grooming and luxurious pampering have never gone out of fashion and I was here for a haircut, not a history lesson.
Michael ran through the treatments on offer: everything from a hot-towel wet shave with a traditional cut-throat razor, to a variety of facial treatments, haircuts, massages and manicures.
I opted for a trim and soon Michael’s hands were deftly surveying the contours of my scalp, quietly determining the best cut to flatter my head shape. Within moments his scissors started skilfully snipping away and soon my appearance began to improve. A few final flourishes and yes, I could definitely pass muster in White’s or Boodle’s. Or even the Palace itself.
Truefitt & Hill has been the mark of a true gentleman for more than two centuries and no doubt shall continue to groom men for greatness for many generations to come.
1 St James’s St, SW1A 1PH. T: 020-7493 2961.